These last segments will conclude my postings on the book Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith. I am concluding it with (arguably) the greatest sermon that the Prophet every gave - The King Follett Discourse. In this posting I encourage the reader to read the sermon before they answer the questions which I will post next week. The sermon can be found in Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 342-362; 369-376. The reason for the break in the sermon is because the next day when he would have concluded the sermon he had lost the power in his voice and had to wait for another day to finish the talk. That other day arrived on June 16, 1844 and the talk was labeled "Sermon in the Grove." If you note the date, he was killed just eleven days later on Thursday, June 27, 1844.
Background to the sermon
Importance of the sermon:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie listed what he called: The Five Greatest Documents in LDS Literature
In no particular order of importance
1. The "Wentworth Letter" written by the Prophet to a newspaper editor
2. Lectures on Faith - Seven lectures given to the School of The Prophets
3. The Father and the Son - A doctrinal exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve
4. "The Origin of Man," by the First Presidency
5. "The King Follett Discourse" and the "Sermon in the Grove"
Who was King Follett?:
- Born in Vermont July 24, 1788 - his parent's last name is Follett and they named him King.
- Baptized a member in the spring of 1831.
- His wife Louisa and six children were members.
- He was the only Mormon actually tried by the Missourians and he was acquitted of robbery charges.
- He helped transform Commerce into Nauvoo.
- He died digging a well march 9, 1844 at the age of 55.
- His funeral was held March 10, 1844. The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke at his funeral but forgot to mention anything about King Follett. His family felt bad that the Prophet did not say anything about their husband and father. The Prophet heard about how the family felt and he felt terrible about it and vowed that in his next major sermon he would honor King Follett. The actual funeral sermon given March 10, the day of the funeral can be found in Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith on pages 335-341 and is labeled "Discourse of the Prophet - Elias, Elijah, Messiah.
- The Prophet's next major sermon came at General Conference held on April 5,6,7,8 (Friday thru Monday). The Prophet gave his major address on Sunday, April 7 and mentioned King Follett several times in the sermon. The General Conference address came to be known as the "King Follett Discourse" and sometimes it is referred to as the "King Follett Funeral Sermon" but as you know it is actually a General Conference talk.
Why does the Prophet seem to be defensive at different times in the sermon? (see page 344 of the sermon for an example):
Some were charging the Prophet with being a fallen prophet
"Some people say I am a fallen Prophet, because I do not bring forth more of the word of the Lord, Why do I not do it? Are we able to receive it? No! Not one in this room. He then chastened the congregation for their wickedness and unbelief, 'for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son and daughter whom he receiveth,' and if we do not receive chastisements then we are bastards and not sons."
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.194)
Had I inspiration, revelation, and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past, there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something.
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.320)
Over two hundred Saints had taken the following oath to kill the Prophet:
They said that President Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and his death was necessary to save the Church. An oath had been prepared which each of those present was asked to take. The candidates in turn would step up to the table where Francis M. Higbee, a justice of the peace, was stationed, and he would ask: "Are you ready?" Receiving from each a favorable reply he administered the following oath:
"You solemnly swear, before God and all holy angels, and these your brethren by whom you are surrounded that you will give your life, your liberty, your influence, your all, for the destruction of Joseph Smith and his party, so help you God!"
The person taking this oath would then say, "I do," after which he would lay down the Bible on which the oath was taken, and sign his name to a written copy of the oath in a book, which would then be acknowledged by the justice of the peace.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols., 4:, p.182-)
It must be kept in mind that most of these people who took this oath were in the audience when the Prophet gave the "King Follett Discourse." Thus, the statement by the Prophet about sons of perdition on page 358 under the subheading "The Forgiveness of Sins." Notice he even gives these people advice in that same part of the sermon. The Prophet found out about their oath to kill him shortly before this sermon. Two teenage boys had infiltrated the meetings of the mob and had reported the proceedings to the Prophet.
The Sermon itself:
The estimated time of the sermon was between two and a half to three hours long. The crowd was estimated at between eight to twenty thousand people. The Prophet had assigned three clerks to record the talk: Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton. Wilford Woodruff also recorded the talk. The now published talk is a combination of all their notes harmonized together.
With his clerks to record his words and thousands of Saints, sinners, gentiles, and dissenters to hear, discuss, and react to his comments, Joseph took the stand at 3:15 P.M., Sunday, 7 April 1844, and delivered the most controversial sermon of his life, unparalleled in Mormonism in historic and doctrinal significance. Mormonism could never be the same thereafter. The dispersing congregation would alter Joseph's life and significantly change the course of the Church. (emphasis added)
(The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse by Van Hale Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 18 (1977-1978), Number 2 - Winter 1978, p.211)